The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) has sounded the alarm over the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) recruiting teenagers as soldiers and said the group will be held liable for human trafficking charges.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, chairman of IACAT, said reports of teenagers, as young as 15-16 years old were among the casualties in the recent skirmishes between the government forces and insurgents in Mindanao.
“Any form of recruitment of children to aid in armed conflict is a reprehensible practice and is rightfully condemned by all nations,” De Lima added. She said BIFF leaders will also likely face human trafficking charges aside from terrorism, etc.
According to Section 5(h) of Republic Act 9208 as amended by RA 10364, recruiting, transporting or adopting a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines or abroad are considered an act trafficking in persons. This is elevated to “qualified human trafficking” if “by reason or on occasion of the act of trafficking in persons, the offended party dies” as stated in Section 6(g) of the same law.
“Children used as combatants suffer in a number of ways, most of them suffer in silence,” she said.
Section 10(e) of the RA 9208 states that any person found guilty of qualified trafficking shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million. “It is incumbent upon us to put an end to these horrors,” De Lima added.